BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Port Canaveral has surpassed Miami for the first time as the world’s busiest cruise port, the Florida Ports Council told News 6 partner Florida Today.
A just-released report from the organization put Port Canaveral’s passenger totals at 4.21 million for the 2022 fiscal year. That compares with 4.02 million for Port of Miami. Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale retained its No. 3 spot, with 1.72 million passengers, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
“We’ve always aimed to be the best cruise port in the world, but what an achievement to now be known as the busiest,” port CEO John Murray said. “This historic milestone is testament to the efforts of our team and cruise partners to provide a best-in-class experience for all cruise guests sailing from Port Canaveral.”
Port Canaveral currently is home to 13 multiday cruise ships from five cruise lines ― Carnival, Disney, MSC, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.
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Port Canaveral also is a major driver for the Space Coast’s overall tourism market, as many cruise passengers stay at local hotels before or after their cruises. They also visit local attractions, eat at local restaurants and shop as local stores.
Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis said Port Canaveral’s No. 1 ranking “is a testament to the great infrastructure, and all the things there are to see and do on the Space Coast. It speaks volumes about our destination, and how much people like staying here before and after they cruise.”
Cranis added that “Port Canaveral has come a long way, and worked hard to surpass Miami as the world’s-busiest cruise port.”
Murray said the new ranking is significant because Port Canaveral always has had “a friendly rivalry” with the Port of Miami and Port Everglades, as Brevard County’s seaport sought to become the No. 1 cruise port.
“Sometimes, it’s a little fun in the rivalry, back and forth,” Murray said during a news conference, at which he discussed the rankings. “The way it ended up in 2022, we were ahead, and it’s something to be happy about right now.”
Newer and larger cruise ships: Allure of the Seas and Marella Cruises coming
Murray said Port Canaveral reached its goal by attracting some of the newest and largest ships in the world and is well-positioned for the future.
Murray said “the fact that we have a new profile of newer, bigger and finer ships I think is going to continue to give us a good push going forward with our status in the types of cruises and people that are coming to see us.”
Murray said he is not concerned about projections in the Florida Ports Council report that Miami will again exceed Port Canaveral in passenger counts by 2027, with 8.40 million passengers that year, compared with Port Canaveral’s 6.43 million.
Murray said those numbers are “very speculative,” and Port Canaveral could reach the 2027 projection way before then.
Murray noted that Port Canaveral’s 2023 passenger counts have been strong so far, and are likely to far exceed the 2022 figures.
Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas ― an “Oasis Class” ship with a passenger capacity of 6,780 ― on Oct. 25 will begin twice-weekly sailings from Port Canaveral. That will be the first Oasis Class ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet to regularly sail two times a week, which Murray said is an indication of the cruise line’s confidence in Port Canaveral and its ability to attract passengers.
Additionally, Marella Cruises will start service from Port Canaveral on May 7, focusing on sailings for residents of the United Kingdom who will fly in to Melbourne Orlando International Airport for their cruises.
“We have a very active plan for the future,” Murray said, with Port Canaveral likely to need to build another cruise terminal in the next three to five years.
State of Florida cruise ports
Murray said all of Florida’s cruise ports are doing well now.
“It’s great to see it coming back strong,” after a lengthy shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Murray said. For Port Canaveral, that shutdown extended more than 16 months from mid-March 2020 to the end of July 2021.
“There’s a lot of economic impact to the state of Florida from all of our cruise ports,” Murray said.
For ships that are based at a cruise port, passenger figures count people both when they get on a ship at the beginning of their cruise and when they get off a ship at the end of their cruise. For ships that are not based at a port, but visit there for a port-of-call stop, passengers are counted only once.
These are the 2022 cruise passenger totals for other Florida ports:
- Tampa Bay: 418,200
- Key West: 198,411
- Palm Beach: 188,235
- Jacksonville: 90,241
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